On Friday, May 21, 2010 at 0200 I woke up to multiple alarms and walked down stairs to the freshly made pre-programmed coffee. What would Alpinism be without caffeine?? 20 minutes later I am in Jen’s kitchen imbibing more of the stimulant. How many times have I driven to this trail-head in the dark?
An hour after leaving the car, Jens, Dan, and I turned off our headlamps and look ed at the North Face of Mount Stuart. We all had the same thoughts, “there is a lot of snow on the face and not much ice, powder on slabs.” The large objective was quickly and unanimously ruled out.
It is a good idea to have a small, medium, and large objective when alpine climbing. This way, one can tailor the climbing objective to the weather and conditions. In the clearing below Mount Stuart, we decided to check out our medium objective, the Cotter-Bebie to Serpentine Ridge on Dragontail Peak.
I strongly recommend climbing with the locals whenever possible. Insider beta is often crucial to timing and matching inspiration to proper objectives. In our case, Jens had been keeping a critical eye on the North Faces and ventured out the week before to climb the Triple Direct. Therefore, we were able to correlate the undulation freezing elevation (read: freeze+thaw=ice) and recent weather to determine the location where the highest likely-hood for good mixed climbing would be.
Some M6 above good rock gear...
“If there are any prohibited items in your bag I will have to call the police,” said the Transportation Safety Officer at Sea-Tac International Airport. I quickly ran though the contents in my mind; off-belay knife, ice axes, ice screws, crampons, lots of sunscreen, mate gord and bombilla... all of which are “prohibited”, or look like something that should be. My hypocampus sent signals to release fight or flight response hormones in my adrenal glands. The airport immediately felt hot and I began to perspire as my heart rate increased as well as my breaths per minute.
“Have you ever flown before?” Asked the Officer as he pulled out the TheraCane. “Yeah, my friend suggested I take this bag a la carte and I was planning on checking it...”
When I returned to the Alaska Airline representative to check the bag in question I realized that my boarding pass was Missing In Action. The rep. couldn’t re-print the pass because the flight was leaving in 15 min. I ran back to the TSA people. They wouldn’t let me pass the initial screening to find my boarding pass without a boarding pass. (It is interesting how these negative feedback loops are built into the MATRIX). Ran back to AA rep. AA rep. and I run to TSA gate. Conversing. TSA Supervisor looked for my boarding pass because we are not allowed to pass initial security check-point. Still couldn’t find pass. Ran back to AA desk with nice AA rep named Melanie. SYSTEM OVER-RIDE Finally printed new boarding pass and called ahead to gate to not close doors w/o me. Ran to gate C14. “JOEL!” Yelled the flight attendent. “Yeah.” Just in time.
The gogoinflight internet above the Contiguous United Staters of America (and an hour North of Seattle into BC) gave me a taste of the future, but not enough to get anything accomplished. The remainder of the flight was spent editing photos and recounting our recent adventures.
El tiempo es perfecto in Anchorage...